Rob Leitch (@Rob_Leitch) is a Deputy Headteacher of a comprehensive secondary school in the London Borough of Bromley and the Chair of Governors at a secondary school in a neighbouring borough. In this blog, Rob shares his thoughts on why being a governor is truly continuous professional development.
If you are involved in education you will instinctively use and understand the same language as those you are holding to account. This helps to build confidence as a new Governor, enabling you to robustly challenge leaders on important issues in a very honest and authentic manner. The context of a school is also crucial – when I became a Chair of Governors, the school was just re-opening within a new Academy Trust, requiring a new Governing Body to be recruited. Having some members with experience of school leadership was crucial to enable strong governance from the start.
My own employer sees my governing role in a really beneficial light as it broadens my own experience and skills set, which can then be used in my own school. Picking up examples of best practice, building valuable contacts and being able to provide a different perspective are just some of the benefits. Being a governor is truly continuous professional development – I learn something new on every visit and in every meeting. It also strengthens your ability to reflect on your own practice within your normal environment – sitting on the other side of the governing table can really drive self-reflection.
It is exciting to be part of driving school improvement from another angle and to have an impact on a wider community. Governing is a voluntary role and a truly rewarding one – you feel such pride by investing in another school and trying to support another set of young people.
Of course it requires extra commitment, but I think it is much more manageable than sometimes people might imagine. It wouldn’t, however, be possible without the support of my employer who is willing to release me for occasional day time events, such as our annual ‘Governors’ Day’. Likewise, as a Chair of Governors, I also have a real responsibility to ensure that the Governing Body use our meeting time efficiently and effectively, to ensure that Governors get the balance right between challenge and support, remaining strategic rather than operational.
I would strongly recommend becoming a Governor in a school in a different local authority or a different phase to the one you work in. The school where I work and the school where I govern serve very different communities and have different opportunities and challenges, but some distance between them has avoided any conflicts of interest and has allowed trust and collaboration to develop without any difficulties.
Rob is sharing his experience as part of NGA’s Educators on Board campaign. If you are an education professional governing in a different school, or a board or school benefitting from having an education professional volunteer with you, we’d be interested in hearing your experiences. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.